Algonquin Writing Center goes all online, tackles new marketing strategies

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Algonquin Writing Center has gone completely online, helping students through virtual and pen pal tutoring.

Courtesy Algonquin Writing Center

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Algonquin Writing Center has gone completely online, helping students through virtual and pen pal tutoring.

Jessie Lambert, Assistant A&E Editor

Have you ever been stuck on an idea during the writing process? Or maybe you are struggling with finding your voice in your writing? Have you attended the Algonquin Writing Center (AWC) for assistance on an important writing assignment in past years but aren’t sure where to turn now? The AWC has opened this school year, all online, to fulfill the writing needs of students. 

The four-year old student-run AWC has always been based on one-on-one, in-person tutoring sessions. This year, the AWC has had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions with many virtual initiatives and programs.

COVID has brought on unique challenges, but co-adviser Sara Stein feels the AWC has been very adaptable. 

“[Co-adviser Seth Czarnecki] and I decided very early on, in the summer, that we would go all online,” Stein said. “During the spring, we had a tutor that was already researching some online tutoring, so we were able to roll it out within weeks. I would say we have been really adaptable and that is definitely one of our strengths.”

The writing center is offering two forms of online tutoring this year: pen pal and virtual tutoring. Pen pal tutoring simply requires students to fill out a Google form with their school email, and within 24 to 48 hours, a tutor will provide feedback through comments on their Google Doc. Virtual tutoring offers a face-to-face tutoring session on Zoom or Google Meet, allowing tutors and writers to discuss their writing. 

Although this is anything but a typical year, senior and AWC co-president Gavin Weinberg believes COVID has helped change the way they approach their role. 

“I think it definitely poses a unique challenge,” Weinberg said. “I like to look at it like it forces us to reconsider some of the ways we conduct business and try to expand our marketing and the services we offer in order to better fit the school community both during COVID-19 and in the future.”

Senior and AWC marketing manager Grace Madden said the AWC has switched up their marketing strategy in order to bring in more students. 

“I just tried to lighten up the Instagram, making sure posting was consistent and doing my best to advertise for events as effectively as possible with different flyers and frequent reminders,” Madden said. “I also wanted to create a theme on the Instagram; that way, the posts looked really fluid and fit together well.”

Madden believes the all online tutoring process is going well. 

“I really don’t mind tutoring over Zoom, although I haven’t had too many sessions,” Madden said. “Lately, people are starting to book more sessions, so I’m really looking forward to doing more tutoring.” 

According to Weinberg, the pen pal system has been a success in bringing in students while virtual tutoring has been less popular.

“It can be really intimidating to just sign up [for virtual tutoring] and not know who your tutor is,” Weinberg said. “But we are really working to try and change that, so if you sign up now you can see who your tutor will be and some fun facts about them, just to make it more engaging and less scary.”

While the qualifications to be a tutor have recently changed, Czarnecki and Stein hold true to the AWC’s core value: inclusivity. Now, to be a tutor, all you must do is sign up to take Advanced Writing Seminar, a half-year course.

“We started with a very teacher-centered approach, where we would take recommendations from a teacher on who they thought would fit our ideal tutor,” Czarnecki said. “What we ended up finding out is that so many students who have talents and funds of knowledge that exist outside of what school traditionally values weren’t getting recommended. So we thought that if a student is willing to take an honors-level course while also dedicating free time to helping other students, we’ll take you and help you become the best tutor you can be.” 

The Algonquin Writing Center offers several options for students and their writing needs. The writing center also provides students with events like “The Revise-A-Thon,” which was a previous event where students were able to receive one-on-one help with their college essays. Keep an eye out for future AWC events by following their Instagram page: @algonquin_wc.

“We are here to help you with both your writing and your skills as a writer,” Weinberg said. “We want you to have concrete takeaways that you can easily and effectively use in your future writing.” 

Contributing Reporter: Ava Aymie